Where to obtain legal assistance

A person having to attend a trial may require legal assistance in order to have his or her matter dealt with. Legal assistance is provided by public legal aid attorneys, attorneys-at-law and licensed legal counsels.

Legal assistance is usually subject to a charge. If a party to a trial cannot afford legal assistance, it may either partly or in full be paid from state funds, in which case the assistance is referred to as 'legal aid'.

In other than simple criminal cases, a legal counsel may also be appointed for a party.

Defence counsel may be appointed for a criminal suspect

A criminal suspect is in certain cases entitled to have a state-funded defence counsel, regardless of his or her financial situation, to assist him or her in the criminal investigation and trial. A defence counsel can be appointed for a person suspected of an aggravated offence or for a person under arrest or on remand upon the person's request. For a person under 18 years of age and for a person not capable of defending himself or herself, the court may appoint a defence counsel on its own initiative.

In cases referred to above, a defence counsel is appointed for the person regardless of his or her financial situation. The defence counsel's fee is paid by the state. If the person is sentenced to punishment for the offence, he or she must, however, reimburse the state for the defence counsel's fee, unless his or her financial situation entitles him or her to legal aid. The amount of the reimbursement is determined in accordance with the same criteria as in legal aid.

A public legal aid attorney, an attorney-at-law or, for special reasons, a licensed legal counsel may be appointed as defence counsel. Usually, the person that the suspect suggests for the task is appointed as defence counsel.

Legal counsel and support person may be appointed for a victim

If a person has become a victim of domestic violence, a sex offence or other serious violence, the court may, when necessary, appoint both a legal counsel and a support person for him or her for the criminal investigation and the trial. The counsel assists the victim in the judicial proceedings related to the case, whereas the support person provides mental support.

The counsel and the support person may be appointed regardless of the victim's income. Their fees and expenses are paid from state funds.